28 And [the angel] (This part of the text is not in the Nestle/Aland 26 text, but it is in the majority text published by Hodges) came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: [blessed art thou among women.] (This part of the text is not in the Nestle/Aland 26 text, but it is in the majority text)
29 And when [she saw him] (This part of the text is not in the Nestle/Aland 26 text, but, again, it is in the majority text), she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
- 1. Gabriel, doing the will of the sending God, coming to her, said:
- a. Hail...
- b. Being highly favored... [Luke's word here is only found one other time in the New Testament -- Ephesians 1:6 --]
- c. The Lord with you...
- d. [Maybe: You are blessed among women...]
- 2. Mary, being completely unsuspecting, or expecting this, was disturbed.
- a. [Maybe: she saw him...]
- b. She was significantly [Luke uses a rare form of the basic word for being troubled that even Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon has only a handful of references for] troubled by the word of Gabriel.
- c. She reasoned regarding the salutation -- what does this mean?
When one looks at the two verses as a unit, it is clear that Luke wanted Theophilus to understand that Mary's reaction to Gabriel's salutation was one of 'troubled reasoning'. It is not that she was troubled by what she saw, but by what she heard. This emphasis means that of all of the variations in the textual traditions regarding this couplet the only one that has any significant bearing in this case is the question of whether Gabriel said "Blessed are you among women", or not. Was Mary disturbed because of this declaration, or was she disturbed by the statement that she was "highly favored" and "the Lord is with her"? There is no way to absolutely decide this (as the "B" rating in the textual commentary on the Nestle/Aland 26 text attests), but there is no good reason to think that "streamlining the text" was involved since the repetitious "virgin" in the preceding verse would have been deleted if streamlining was in vogue. Therefore, the omission probably stands; and, that means that Mary is being recorded as being troubled by a salutation that makes her a special object of grace. [It is interesting to note that the issue of "greeting" is jumped up several notches in 1:39-45 where it is a focus of the paragraph in that it is repeated three times. It is also very probable that Mary needed Elizabeth's strong words of confirmation to fortify her against the public reaction that is inevitably going to come when it is known that she is pregnant out of wedlock.] This means, then, that Luke is deliberately focusing upon the difficulty folks have with "grace". Zacharias is portrayed as frankly disbelieving that he was to be "graced" and as having a significant problem in seeing Yahweh as gracious as a primary characteristic (thus, the name "John"). In this text, Mary is significantly disturbed by the salutation that claims she is highly "graced".
The Issue Before Us:
The question before us is this: what is the difficulty that people have with "grace"? Why did Luke think Theophilus would need to understand that it is rather typical for people to not relate to grace very well.? Is it fundamental to human nature to shy away from grace? Is one of man's fundamental problems a problem relating to a God Who is fundamentally "gracious"?
Some Facts to Consider:
The "grace" of God has a double focus. On one hand, grace signifies a character which intensely desires to bring good into the life of the object of grace. It is never said of grace that it seeks evil for objects of grace. On the other hand, grace signifies a character that does not relinquish its decision-making power to another. It is not grace if the good that is to come is leveraged (I owe you this by reason of something you have done). This double focus creates all manner of problems for man in his post-Genesis-3 condition. On the one hand, the accusation in Genesis 3 which found fertile soil in Adam's heart/mind was the implied charge that God was restricting Adam from something that was "good". This implied charge had huge overtones regarding the character of the One doing the restricting. These overtones directly contradict the very essence of grace as a "goodness-seeking" characterization. On the other hand, once the overtones are incorporated into the "song", there is no escape from the need to be able to control the decision-making process. If God does not seek my good, I must do what I can to try to dominate the decision-making process that has to do with whether I receive good, or not. Thus, the double focus of grace creates all manner of problems for fallen man at a very real foundational level. If there is a fundamental problem that man has with God, it is to be found in these two issues: if God is really gracious, why am I at risk here? (a variation on the question: Is God good?); and, if I am at risk here, who, better than I, should be permitted to make the decisions about me and that risk? (a variation on the theme: Ought not I be the one to occupy the throne?) Interestingly, the risk is real. Grace isn't the only attribute of God! But, just as interesting, no one who depends upon the grace of God ever finds Him compelled by His sense of justice to bring final disaster into his experience. In a very real sense, God treats us like we expect Him to. If our expectation is great harm because we reject grace, great harm is what we experience. But, if our expectation is good by grace, good by grace is what we experience. Thus, faith really is the bottom line just as was demonstrated in Genesis 3 and is forcefully declared on all of the pages of Scripture. When a creature embraces the evil heart of unbelief regarding the essential goodness of God, he moves in ways that are enormously destructive to himself and all others upon whom he bears impact. The only way the gracious God can produce good for all of those "others" is for Him to eliminate the doer of the destruction -- i.e. to fulfill the expectation of the wicked that God will do great harm to him! Thus the wicked can always say, "My experience proves my perception that God is evil was correct" even though it is altogether untrue. It is not evil in God that seeks the destruction of the wicked; rather, it is justice in harness with the goodness of God Who seeks good for those who are being destroyed by the wicked. There are only two ways the wicked can be blocked from making a death-impact upon others: one is for the wicked to come to a different kind of faith that produces life-impacting behaviors; the other is to remove the wicked to a place where his behaviors can not impact the experience of those who seek to live. This removal can be by way of annihilation, or by imprisonment. Since annihilation is eliminated by the requirements of justice, only eternal imprisonment can occur. Thus the doctrine of eternal Hell.
- 1. The questions begin with the variations in the textual traditions. They are not questions of truth in the largest sense of the term as none of the texts say anything that isn't true; rather, they are questions of emphasis and nuance.
- a. Did Luke write that '"the angel" came and said', or not?
- 1) If he did, the duplication of the reference to Gabriel as an angel becomes a subtle emphasis upon the fact that God sent a messenger to Mary. That He did that is unquestioned; the question is whether this is part of Luke's emphasis.
- 2) If he did not, there is no emphasis upon the visitation as angelic.
- b. Did Luke write that Gabriel said "blessed art thou among women", or not?
- 1) What significance would it have if he did?
- a) Since it is exactly the same phrase as found in verse 42, it would, if it belongs in this verse, constitute a duplication that brings a deliberate focus into the overall message of the extended text.
- b) With this deliberate focus, Luke's words would be directed to Mary's state of blessedness as one highly exalted by God as a primary focus of his overall record.
- 2) What significance would it have if he did not?
- a) If he did not write these words, the focus shifts from Mary's state of blessedness to her condition of being highly graced.
- b) If the focus of Luke is upon "Grace", as is indicated by his deliberate contrast of the theology of Zacharias and the instruction to name his son "John", the focus upon grace in this text would maintain the comparison/contrast that is obvious between the two records regarding Zacharias and Mary.
- 3) What evidence is there that he did, or not?
- a) Elizabeth, filled with the Spirit, said this very thing in verse 42.
- b) What reason would there be for anyone to omit it in the textual tradition?
- i. Its omission exists in some texts.
- ii. There would have to be a reason for a copyist to omit it.
- iii. About the only reason anyone could have for omitting it would be to streamline the record because the same words are found a few verses further into the record and are not omitted there.
- c) What reason would there be for anyone to insert it into the textual tradition?
- i. It exists in some texts.
- ii. There would need to be a reason for a copyist to insert it.
- iii. About the only reason anyone could have for inserting it would be to add emphasis to Mary's state of blessedness.
- d) Streamlining is not as likely as "commentary" -- i.e., it is more likely that someone would include a "legitimate" comment because they could identify with Mary's blessedness, than it is that someone would deliberately omit a statement just because it is found a few verses further on (why would anyone want to omit a true statement just because it is to be found again in another place?).
- e) In the final analysis, the decision is subjective enough to render it incapable of sustaining faith -- i.e. nothing that is determined on the basis of the differences in the texts alone can sustain faith because the evidence simply isn't compelling.
- c. Did Luke write that Mary "saw him", or not?
- 1) What significance would it have if he did?
- a) The inclusion of the reference to sight adds the concept of sensory perception to the overall idea of the text.
- b) This is in harmony with the statement in 1:12 that Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel.
- 2) What significance would it have if he did not?
- a) The omission of the reference to sight would only slightly alter the parallelism to the record of Zacharias' reaction because the rest of the text tells us that Mary is troubled, not by what she saw (in distinction from Zacharias), but by what she heard.
- b) The omission would only drop the sensory issue down one notch.